For about a week now I've been mulling over Roel Loopers' summary of the debate surrounding Scheme Amendment 49 at Wednesday night's Planning Committee meeting (you can read his summary 'Huge Council Eve for Big Freo Changes' by clicking here).
It seems to me there is broad consensus that Freo's inner east end requires revitalising. I agree. I think most people do. To me, much of the area looks like a group of architects got together to see how they could surpass each other in designing extremely bad, unpleasant and ugly buildings. I can just see one of them hunched over some plans and then spinning on his 1960s office chair, with a cigarette in one hand and a scale ruler in the other exclaiming to face the rest of the office. "Jones thinks that he has a ghastly design, but wait until he cops a look at what I've come up with!"
Why is it then that much of the rhetoric we hear from Council continues to be about the necessity to do something, anything, post haste?
More importantly, why is it that whenever a legitimate criticism against Scheme Amendment 49 is raised, Council begins to wring its hands, knash its teeth and wail about how if something isn't done immediately, it spells the end for Fremantle?
For example here is how Roel summarised Councillor Sullivan's comments at the meeting:
"Councillor Andrew Sullivan put doom and gloom on the evening by claiming if Fremantle does not develop rapidly in the next five years, decline will become catastrophic. There needs to be balance between the utopia we might like Fremantle to be and reality, he said."
This kind of catastrophic hyperbole is beginning to resemble a kind of emotional blackmail, intended to silence vigorous debate about ensuring that Freo is revitalised properly. Advocating for Scheme Amendment 49 really shouldn't be solely based on scare tactics about an arbitrary end date for Freo. If that is the best they can come up with, then I'm not convinced.
The old rubric says that you wouldn't want to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire, and I think that this holds true for Freo. Maybe 2012 is the year that Council takes a collective breath and resolves that when it comes to revitalising Freo, quality is far and away better than quantity?